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Groupon adds same-day hotel bookings with Blink app deal

Groupon has acquired last-minute travel mobile application Blink to expand the functionality and footprint of its Groupon Getaways travel deals service.

The Blink deal will add same-day bookings for the first time, an important capability for mobile users who are often on the road and looking to book last-minute travel arrangements. The deal will also help Groupon strengthen its quickly growing European business in addition to bringing new functionality.

“Blink provides a number of opportunities that Groupon will put to use as we continue to scale our global travel business, including an excellent mobile experience, same-day booking features and relationships with top properties in highly sought-after destinations in Europe,” said Nicholas Halliwell, manager of merchant public relations at Groupon, Chicago.

“Mobile is an important and growing platform for Groupon and Groupon Getaways,” he said. “Travel deals are no exception.

“In June, nearly 50 percent of all of our North American transactions were completed through a mobile device. While our international mobile mix is less than North America, it is increasing at a faster rate.”

Last-minute bookings
Groupon Getaways, which was launched in 2011, offers curated deals on hotels, all-inclusive travel packages and full-service tours in 48 countries.

Blink works with more than 2,000 hotel partners in eight European countries to offer curated, same-day hotel bookings. The app caters to on-the-go travelers looking for unique hotels in popular travel destinations across Europe.

The Blink app will be rebranded “Blink by Groupon” and will operate separately. The Blink team is based in Madrid.

Blink offers last-minute hotel deals in Europe

The focus for Blink will be on developing an integrated experience that leverages the full breadth of Groupon Getaways’ global travel offers.

“Blink specializes in same-day bookings with a small set of interesting properties, focused primarily in Southern and Western Europe,” Mr. Halliwell said.

“Groupon Getaways does not presently offer same-day bookings, and we see this capability as another important service we can offer our customers,” he said.

“Blink operates in eight European countries with strong concentrations in Spain and Italy. They have more than 2,200 hotel relationships and more than 500,000 app downloads overall.

Mobile travel
Groupon started out as a daily deals service, but has been moving aggressively to expand its offerings along the lines of building a strong ecommerce strategy, with mobile playing a key part.

Groupon’s mobile strategy includes selling merchandise through its Groupon Goods offering and encouraging users to leverage its app to find local deals when they are out and about as opposed to waiting to receive an email from Groupon with offers that may not be relevant.

Groupon is also focused on mobile point-of-sale services for merchants and recently updated its iPhone app so that users can make, share and modify restaurant reservations at fine dining establishments as well as access discounts of up to 40 percent.

The Blink deal as well as the Groupon Reserve service suggest that Groupon is looking for a bigger role in travel-related services, where mobile has been growing quickly. Groupon faces a significant amount of competition here from the likes of HotelTonight, Expedia and others.

“Mobile is very important for Groupon Getaways, which is why we’ve devoted significant space to it in the Groupon mobile app,” Mr. Halliwell said.

“Our app has been downloaded by more 50 million people, including more than 7.5 million in Q2 alone, and ranks as one of top 25 most downloaded free apps of all time in the United States,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York